Tuesday 8 May 2018

ALBUM REVIEW: Morag Tong, “Last Knell of Om”

By: Reverend Dixie Pole

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 18/05/2018
Label: Independent

In a year choc full of essential releases, Morag Tong have solidified their place with a Top 10 album contender

“Last Knell of Om CD//DD//LP track listing:-

1). Transmission
2). New Growth
3). We Answer
4). To Soil
5). Ruminations
6). Ephemera / Stare Through the Deep

The Review:

In a world full of ever expanding realms of stoner and doom, it can be somewhat easy to get lost in the mire of it all. Thus, it is a comfort to know that a band such as Morag Tong exist. Ironically, when I first became somewhat smitten with Morag Tongs sound from the stupidly overlooked “Through Clouded Time” EP of 2016, they lived up to their name (see video game The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) acting as a secret entity operating from the shadows, however it has become harder and harder over time for people to ignore the existence and ever looming presence of this band as they have continued to leave punters in awe at the sheer power embroiled within their sound.

The procession of “Last Knell of Om” begins with “Transmission”, an instrumental instantly showcasing a rich and beautifully warm bass tone (courtesy of bassist James Atha), acting as a gentle welcoming to the listeners ears. This allows the drums to enter with ease all the meanwhile the guitars are bleeding in to create a landscape making tasteful use of swirls in fuzz. A song where many would falter for not knowing how to land it, Morag Tong touch down gracefully without over egging the pudding as it were.

With following track entitled “New Growth”, we are introduced fairly early on to the vocals from drummer Adam Asquith, a bellowing (and one of the better voices I have heard in a long time for this genre) call to the skies above, juxtaposed against a dark heavy and simplistic riff -all timed to perfection for the ultimate (bong) hit. The song builds and builds, drawing the listener back to the well balanced, interesting bass guitar riffing, drawing ever closer to the final riff and man oh man is it a riff worth waiting for. In fact if anything, I would love to have heard that riff far longer with some more lead work but it’s solid nonetheless.

The album plays to the strengths of Morag Tongs sound, which is to harness the core duo of well thought out bass lines and drums that are memorable, whilst creating a landscape with the guitars, their tones and subtle lead work over one another. The melodies captured by both guitarists (Alex Clarke and Lewis Crane respectively) invoke memorable, beautifully soul destroying melodies that can have a somewhat emotional impact on the listener – whether it’s the moment of looking to the sky and lamenting what life could have been if things had been different (see – “We Answer”) or gazing into the void at the hopeless mess that is mankind itself (“To Soil”). A drone of sorts is created by these elements and no – not in the Sunn O))) way – a natural drone that doesn’t overstay its welcome and acts as a soft blanket.

The album has been recorded, mixed and mastered by Sam Thredder of Cros Nest studios and what a fantastic job he has done. He has been the key to encapsulating what Morag Tong sound like live, allowing the listener to become all consumed by the waves of sound. Having seen Morag Tong live 5 times already over the past year, this is something which I had hoped was going to be evident in the presentation of the mix and master. Thankfully, this happy camper got his wish granted. Warm, clear bass throughout the fuzziest of amp orgy inducing guitar tones, clear definition of each limb of the drum kit and the perfect balance of vocals within the mix, powerful yet not overbearing on the instrumental side of affairs.

The musicianship on “Last Knell of Om is simply big, fantastic and mature. Morag Tong excel in their subtleties, of guitar tones, bass tone and overall placing of songs, for example one need only pay attention to the placing of album concluder “Ephemera / Stare Through the Deep” with its “Planet Caravan”-esque ascending trip to the stars only to be dropped to earth again for opener “Transmission”. In essence this is to me how “Last Knell of Om” plays out, a journey that starts by allowing the listener to rise from the earth, then drift through a swell of emotions, ascend to the astral plains and be stricken back to this world, only for the process to repeat all over again as if caught in the belly of the Ouroboros.

“Through Clouded Time” was a great introduction to Morag Tong and is still essential whilst you can grab a copy (which I recommend), however “Last Knell of Om” has already in a year choc full of essential new releases from legends such as Sleep and Yob, solidified its place as a top 10 contender for myself this year. This is the most earthly, organic stoner doom band these ears have heard in a long time and as one who can usually throw around other comparisons to what a band sound like, I struggle to do this with Morag Tong. This - in my opinion, can only be a good thing.

Catch them on 16th May at The Black Heart in Camden with Wychound and Elephant Tree for the album launch.

“Last Knell of Om is available here

Band info: bandcamp || facebook